Psychic duels are battles in which combatants’ minds become intertwined within a binary mindscape. Though psychic spellcasters wield tremendous power in such battles, other creatures can also wield mental might with surprising potency.
A psychic spellcaster creates a binary mindscape when a target fails its save against instigate psychic duel.
The caster’s and target’s minds are then merged in a psychic duel within that mindscape until either the spell’s duration ends or the psychic duel reaches its conclusion. If the duel begins during combat, each of the dueling characters retains its initiative order and the psychic duel goes on in conjunction with the initial combat.
If the duel begins outside combat, the initiator can take a swift action to create a supernatural effect called a psychic manifestation (see below) upon entering the binary mindscape, before her opponent’s first turn.
While locked in a psychic duel, the combatants’ physical bodies become unresponsive. They retain their positions, but they can take no actions and lose their Dexterity bonuses to Armor Class for the duration of the duel.
Each combatant in a psychic duel attacks her opponent and defends herself with the power of her imagination and force of her personality. Such combatants appear in the binary mindscape much as they appear in reality (unless using a mental mask), but their abilities and attacks are enhanced in some ways and limited in others by the strange laws of the binary mindscape.
While the illusion of physical movement exists in the mindscape’s reality, such things as speed and position have little bearing on a psychic duel. Combatants are limited to purely mental actions, speech, and the creation of psychic manifestations (see below). With very few exceptions, spells and spell-like abilities can’t be used (see Concluding a Psychic Duel).
When a character enters a binary mindscape, she uses the following statistics as they were prior to entering: her current hit points; ability scores; AC and touch AC; Reflex, Fortitude, and Will saving throws; highest melee attack bonus; and highest ranged attack bonus. These attack bonuses apply on melee and ranged offensive manifestations, respectively. Regeneration and fast healing are the only special abilities that apply in a psychic duel; uncanny dodge and damage reduction, for example, do not.
Bonuses and penalties granted by items, as well as spells and effects active before entering the mindscape, apply to these statistics, as such items and effects gain psychic equivalents when a creature enters a mindscape.
However, while the mind is engaged in a psychic duel, only damaging and healing spells and effects cast on the body of a combatant have an effect on the battle.
Manifestations retain many of the manifestor’s combat capabilities. The nature of the binary mindscape translates martial prowess into psychic parallels; after all, such prowess comes from training, muscle memory, and other subconscious components of the mind. This means that while martially inclined characters have fewer resources in a psychic duel, they can still make powerful attacks against their foes with great accuracy.
Conditions gained during a psychic duel rarely carry over into the real world, but damage is dealt to the physical body of the duelist, so it’s possible for combatants to die.
While engaged in a psychic duel, the combatants don’t attack or cast spells normally. Instead, the combatants create psychic manifestations, abilities that can be used only within a binary mindscape; these represent changes to the mindscape’s fabric (see Mindscapes).
Psychic manifestations are fueled by psychic energy, represented by manifestation points (MP). Each combatant has a manifesting level equal either to its highest caster level or half its number of Hit Dice, whichever is higher. The maximum number of manifestation points a combatant can spend when creating a manifestation is equal either to the highest-level spell the combatant can cast or 1/4 its HD (minimum 1 and maximum 5), whichever is higher.
In order to create a psychic manifestation, a combatant must generate MP in any of four ways: from ability scores, from class features, by sacrificing spells, or by sacrificing spell-like abilities. She can use each of these methods only once per manifestation. For example, a character who is a gunslinger 1/wizard 8 could generate 1 MP from ability scores, 1 MP from grit, and 2 MP by sacrificing a 2nd-level spell, thus reaching her per-manifestation limit of 4 MP, but she couldn’t do so by sacrificing four different 1st-level spells. If a combatant doesn’t use all of the manifestation points it generates immediately, the extra points are lost.
Generating MP from ability scores doesn’t deplete the ability score, but it has other consequences for a combatant once the duel is concluded (see below). All other sources of MP deplete the spent resources in the real world as well.
Generating MP from Ability Scores: Every combatant begins a psychic duel with a pool of MP equal to the combatant’s HD + the average of her Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores. As a free action, a combatant can draw from this pool to generate MP. A combatant who draws any number of points from this pool is fatigued upon leaving the binary mindscape. A combatant who draws half or more of these points is exhausted upon leaving the mindscape, and takes a –4 penalty to Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma for 24 hours thereafter. If a combatant expends the entire pool, she becomes unconscious after leaving the mindscape. The fatigued, exhausted, and unconscious conditions and the –4 penalty ignore all immunities and last for 24 hours; they can’t be removed before that time except by a wish or a miracle.
Generating MP from Select Class Features: As a free action, a combatant with an arcane, grit, ki, panache, or phrenic pool (or any other similar class feature the GM chooses) can spend points from these pools to generate MP at a rate of 1 MP per point spent.
Sacrificing Spells to Generate MP: As a free action, a combatant can sacrifice a single spell slot (if he’s a spontaneous caster) or prepared spell (if he’s a prepared caster) to generate a number of MP equal to the level of the spell slot or prepared spell sacrificed. Alchemists and investigators can sacrifice an extract slot as if it were a spell slot, but only if that extract slot is currently open and not already invested in a physical extract.
Sacrificing Spell-Like Abilities to Generate MP: A combatant can sacrifice a use of a spell-like ability in a way similar to sacrificing spells to generate MP. However, each at-will spell-like ability can be sacrificed only once during a single psychic duel; it is not a source of infinite MP.
Psychic manifestations have three main types: offensive manifestations, defensive manifestations, and thought-form creatures. For the purpose of concentration checks, creating a manifestation is considered casting a spell with a spell level equal to the number of MP spent to create the manifestation.
The combatant creating the manifestation treats her manifesting level as her caster level for such checks.
Offensive Manifestation (Full-Round Action)
This type of manifestation is a direct attack on an opponent, a thought-form creature, or both. An offensive manifestation can attack a variety of defenses, depending on the number of MP spent and the desires of its creator.
Creating an offensive manifestation requires three steps.
Step 1—Create Sensory Effects: Combatants creating psychic manifestations are limited only by their imaginations as to the look, sound, feel, and smell of each manifestation; these sensory effects guide combatants in their later choices. For example, if a combatant envisions an offensive manifestation as a giant ball of lava he throws at his opponent, that might suggest that the attack should force a Reflex saving throw rather than targeting the opponent’s AC. Regardless of the effect’s form, damage dealt by a manifestation is always untyped damage, and can be mitigated only by defensive manifestations.
Step 2—Determine Attack Type: By default, an offensive manifestation acts as either a melee or ranged attack (creator’s choice) that resolves against a single target’s AC.
The creator can have the manifestation resolve against touch AC instead by increasing the cost by 2 MP.
Alternatively, the creator can instead force both his opponent and any thought-form creature it controls to attempt a saving throw to avoid the effect; this increases the cost by 1 MP. The DC is equal to 10 + the total number of MP spent + the Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma bonus of the creator (whichever is highest). The creator chooses which kind of saving throw—Fortitude, Reflex, or Will—the target must attempt. By default, a successful save negates the manifestation’s damage, but the creator can increase the cost by an additional 1 MP to cause the manifestation to deal half damage on a successful save.
If an offensive manifestation’s effects can be negated or reduced with a saving throw, the creator can increase the cost to have the manifestation apply a condition (see Step 3).
Step 3—Determine Damage and Conditions: After determining the manifestation’s attack type, the creator determines its number of damage dice. The creator must spend at least 1 MP on damage, which grants the manifestation 1 damage die, but she can spend more to increase the number of dice, as shown on the table below.
|MP Spent on Damage||Number of Damage Dice|
|1 MP||1 die|
|2 MP||4 dice|
|3 MP||6 dice|
|4 MP||8 dice|
|5 MP||10 dice|
|6 MP||12 dice|
|7 MP||14 dice|
|8 MP||16 dice|
|9 MP||1 die per creator’s manifesting level
(maximum 20 dice)
The manifestation’s damage die type depends on the source of the manifestation’s MP. Psychic spells and spell-like abilities sacrificed grant d8s. Arcane spells and other spell-like abilities grant d6s. All other methods of generating MP (including mixed methods) grant d4s. If the manifestation’s attack resolves against AC or touch AC, a natural 20 on the attack roll threatens a critical hit for double damage. If the manifestation allows a saving throw, the creator can spend additional MP to add one condition from the list below (she must still spend at least 1 MP on damage). A successful saving throw always negates the condition. Conditions gained in a psychic duel end if the duel ends before the condition’s normal duration expires. The conditions below otherwise follow the normal rules for those conditions, with the following exceptions and additions.
Blinded (3 MP): Affected creatures are blinded for 1 round; They can’t use offensive manifestations that require saves.
Confused (3 MP): The affected creatures are confused for 1 round, breaking concentration automatically. If an affected creature is forced to attack the nearest creature, it attacks its opponent’s thought-form creature if one exists, or the opponent if not. A confused combatant never attacks her own thought-form creature, or vice versa. This condition can be applied only to manifestations that require Will saves.
Dazed (4 MP): The affected creatures are dazed for 1 round. A dazed combatant can continue to concentrate on thoughtform creatures and create defensive manifestations, but can’t create thought-form creatures or offensive manifestations. This condition can be applied only to manifestations that require Will saves.
Nauseated (4 MP): The affected creatures are nauseated for 1 round. A nauseated creature can create only defensive manifestations. This condition can be applied only to manifestations that require Fortitude saves.
Defensive manifestations protect a combatant from her opponent’s manifestations. A combatant in a psychic duel can manifest the following defensive abilities.
Evasive Mind (1 or more MP; swift action): The combatant gains a +2 bonus on all saving throws and gains evasion for a number of rounds equal to the number of MP she spent to create this manifestation.
Hardened Mind (1 to 4 MP; swift action): For 1 round, the combatant’s Armor Class increases by an amount equal to the number of MP she spent to create this manifestation, and her touch AC increases by half that (minimum +0).
Thought Barrier (1 or more MP; swift action): A thought barrier reduces the damage dealt to the combatant by offensive manifestations and thought-form creatures by 5 points. This manifestation lasts for a number of rounds equal to the number of MP the combatant spent to create it.
Disruptive Counter (variable MP; immediate action): When the combatant’s opponent creates a manifestation, the combatant can spend a number of MP equal to that manifestation’s cost + 2 to counter that manifestation. When she does, any currently active thought-form creatures or defensive manifestations she has are dismissed.
Psychic Redirect (1 MP; immediate action): When the combatant would take damage while she has a thoughtform creature active, she can use this ability to apply the damage to her thought-form creature instead. If the attack targets both the combatant and the thought-form creature, the thought-form creature takes the damage for both itself and the combatant and suffers any condition conferred by the attack, but the combatant suffers no effects.
A thought-form creature is a mentally constructed thrall that takes any form its creator desires. Creating a thoughtform creature takes 1 full round (as if the creator were casting a spell with a 1-round casting time) and lasts as long as its creator concentrates on the creature’s existence as a full-round action; a combatant can manifest only one thoughtform creature at a time. A thought-form creature must make its attacks against another thought-form creature if one is manifested; if not, it can attack its creator’s opponent. The creature makes its attacks when its creator uses a full-round action to concentrate on the thought-form creature. When a thought-from creature is reduced to 0 or fewer hit points, it disappears and its creator takes an amount of damage equal to the thought-form creature’s psychic backlash (see thought-Form Creature Statistics below). A thought-form creature can be dismissed as a free action. A basic thought-form creature costs 1 MP to create, and has the following base statistics.
Thought-Form Creature Statistics: AC creator’s AC; touch AC creator’s touch AC; hp 1/2 creator’s current hit points; Attack Bonus creator’s manifesting level + creator’s Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (whichever is highest); Damage 1d6 + creator’s Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma modifier (whichever is highest); Saves creator’s save bonuses; Psychic Backlash 1d10 + the MP cost of the thought-form creature.
Thought-Form Creature Augmentations: When creating a thought-form creature, the creator can apply any of the following augmentations, up to her maximum MP limit.
Increase Attack Bonus: Increase the cost by up to 4 MP to increase the thought-form creature’s attack bonus on all its attacks by the same amount.
Extra Attacks: Increase the cost by 2 MP to grant the thought-form creature a second attack each round. Increasing the cost by an additional 2 MP grants it a third attack, but the creature makes the third attack at a –5 penalty.
Increase Saving Throws: Increase the cost by 2 or 4 MP to increase the bonus on all of the thought-form creature’s saving throws by half that amount.
Increase Damage: Increase the cost by 1 MP to increase the thought-form creature’s damage die type for all its attacks to d8, or by 2 MP to increase the damage die type to d10. If the thought-form creature has only one attack, its damage bonus with that attack increases to 1-1/2 × the creator’s Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma bonus (whichever is highest).
Protective Ability: Increase the cost by 1 MP to grant the creator a +4 bonus to AC (both normal and touch), a +2 bonus on Reflex saving throws, and evasion for as long as this thought-form creature exists. Increasing the cost by an additional 2 MP also grants the creator immunity to attacks against AC or touch AC for as long as this thought-form creature exists.
There are a number of ways a psychic duel can conclude and the combatants’ minds can return to their bodies (aside from the end of the instigate psychic duel spell that started the combat). The duel ends immediately if one of the combatants reaches 0 or fewer hit points or both combatants agree to end the psychic duel. Each combatant can make this agreement as a free action that can be taken even when it isn’t that combatant’s turn. Rarely, a spell or ability can allow combatants to leave a psychic duel. For instance, unlike most spells, mindscape door can be cast while in a psychic duel, allowing the caster to leave the mindscape and end the duel. Lastly, a creature adjacent to the body of a combatant can attempt to shake that creature out of its torpor as a standard action. Doing so is a melee touch attack that deals no damage but allows the combatant to attempt a new saving throw against the effect that started the psychic duel. If the check is successful, the mind of the roused creature returns to its body and the duel ends. A creature in a psychic duel can attempt no more than one additional save per round in this way.
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Occult Adventures © 2015, Paizo Inc.; Authors: John Bennett, Logan Bonner, Robert Brookes, Jason Bulmahn, Ross Byers, John Compton, Adam Daigle, Jim Groves, Thurston Hillman, Eric Hindley, Brandon Hodge, Ben McFarland, Erik Mona, Jason Nelson, Tom Phillips, Stephen Radney-MacFarland, Thomas M. Reid, Alex Riggs, Robert Schwalb, Mark Seifter, Russ Taylor, and Steve Townshend.